Beware of potential Haiti relief scams

Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 4:25 p.m.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson Thursday warned Floridians to be on the lookout for scams involving relief aid in the aftermath of this week's massive earthquake in Haiti.

“The people in Haiti need massive amounts of aid, and we encourage our citizens to be as generous as possible in helping,” Bronson said. “But you need to make sure that the donations you are planning to make go to legitimate organizations that will benefit Haiti, and not to con artists who undoubtedly will try to exploit the tragedy by lining their own pockets with your donations.”

While no known scams have yet to be uncovered in Florida, con artists typically arise when tragedies occur and approach citizens with impressive-sounding organizations that seek money over the Internet, by phone and sometimes even in person.

“Don't be tricked into giving money to a person or organization with which you are not familiar,” Bronson said.

Residents who are thinking about making a contribution to an unfamiliar organization can contact the Consumer Services Division at 800-HELPFLA (800-435-7352) to make sure that the organization is registered with the state as a charity and to check its complaint history.

Consumers can also go to the division's website at and determine an organization's registration status by looking at the “Gift Givers Guide” and can file an online complaint on the same site.

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